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Courtesy of: Joan Marc Bosch
Courtesy of: Joan Marc Bosch
ORLANDO, Florida, February 15. THE final day of preliminary qualifying took place at the Arena Grand Prix in Orlando, and swim fans got everything they wanted and more as Ryan Lochte made his much-anticipated return to the sport after a knee injury forced him into rehab the last few months.
Women's 200 IM
Continuing her trend of strong times both in the morning and in the evening, the Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu crushed the meet record in the 200 IM this morning with a 2:14.18. That swim smashed the 2:15.25 set by Becca Mann a year ago, and could go even lower considering Hosszu owns a third-ranked season best of 2:10.97 from the Belgium Cup.
Hosszu is making a serious impact here in Orlando, as in just two days she vaulted to third in the point standings (21) and has a strong shot to lead both Megan Romano (24.5) and Caitlin Leverenz (22) by the end of the night. The question would then remain if Hosszu decides to stick around the U.S. circuit to win the overall title.
Leverenz, meanwhile, raced into second in 2:16.90 and the 200 IM might represent her best shot of another podium this evening, while York Y 15-year-old Meghan Small picked up third overall in 2:17.84.
T2's Justine Mueller touched fourth in 2:17.90 as the only other sub-2:18 swimmer of the morning. Clearwater's Sydney Pickrem, 16, hit the wall in 2:18.82 for fifth, while SwimMAC's Katie Meili initially wound up sixth in 2:19.22 before drawing a disqualification.
Hungary's Sara Joo (2:20.33), BlueFish's Laura Sogar (2:21.19) and So Flo's Alia Atkinson (2:21.22) grabbed the final three transfer spots.
Men's 200 IM
While Wisconsin's Michael Weiss (2:04.12) and Ontario's Evan White (2:04.63) put up the top two times, and will likely be the two batting for the title this evening, most of the attention will be on the 14-year-old professional swimmer Michael Andrew.
Andrew qualified third overall in 2:05.33 and will be looking to break his 13-14 U.S. National Age Group record of 2:05.13 set last year. Also, should he maintain his positioning during the finale, Andrew could earn his first podium paycheck with a top-three finish. Typically, Andrew has been ravaging the U.S. National Age Group record book in the B-C-D finals, but he has a legitimate chance to make some noise on the podium.
Hungary's David Foldhazi, who trains with Katinka Hosszu and has had a similarly-stacked event schedule, took fourth in 2:05.60, while compatriot David Verraszto placed fifth in 2:05.75 and will be looking for his third title of the meet having already won the 400 IM and 200 fly.
Canada's Alec Page (2:06.08), Louisville's Carlos Almeida (2:07.02) and Trojan's Mike Alexandrov (2:08.19) rounded out the rest of the championship finale field.
Women's 200 back
The women's 200 backstroke finale is loaded with some strong talent. Canada's Hilary Caldwell led the way in qualifying with a 2:11.72. She's already been a sixth-ranked 2:10.78 in Austin last month, and likely will have much more in the tank this evening as she vies for the title.
Ontario's Dominique Bouchard punched the wall in 2:13.05 for the second seed, while Hungary's Katinka Hosszu picked up another podium opportunity with a third-seeded 2:13.36. There's a definitely possibility that Hosszu will overtake Megan Romano and Caitlin Leverenz for the top of the Grand Prix leaderboard by the end of the night.
Great Britain's Elizabeth Simmonds, who ranks seventh in the world with a 2:11.04 from the Belgium Cup, qualified fourth in 2:13.71, while Romano wound up fifth in 2:16.05. Saint Andrew's Vien Nguyen claimed sixth in 2:16.37.
York Y's Courtney Harnish, 14, continued her breakout meet as she thumped her lifetime best with a seventh-seeded time of 2:16.45. That time blasted her previous best of 2:19.15 from last summer's junior nationals. Oakland's Karin Tomeckova rounded out the top eight in 2:16.52.
Men's 200 back
The prodigal son returned from his knee injury and some crazy inclement weather that scuttled his first two days in Orlando as Ryan Lochte powered his way to a 2:00.61 to lead the way this morning. He demonstrated that his knee issues haven't hurt his underwaters much, nearly hitting the 15-meter mark on his final turn.
Club Wolverine's Tyler Clary, who holds the meet record with a 1:57.85 from last year, qualified second in 2:02.21 as he also is battling back from injury as well as some rough stints with the flu. Rounding out a loaded top three, Russian Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin took third in 2:02.86.
The trio will push the pace this evening, potentially vying for Clary's meet record, but at least looking to break into the top 10 in the world currently anchored by Ashley Delaney's 1:58.99 from Perth.
Germany's Yannick Lebherz picked up fourth in 2:03.19, while Hungary's David Verraszto took fifth in 2:03.87. Both swimmers have already won titles earlier in the meet, and could be looking to add another title to their haul.
Hungary's Gabor Balog (2:03.94), Hungary's David Folhazi (2:04.39) and CST's David Cespedes Echeverry (2:05.79) also made the finale.
Women's 100 free
The women's 100 free prelims witnessed a pretty swift set of swims across the board with Canada's Victoria Poon taking down the meet record with a 55.27. That performance clipped Missy Franklin's 55.37 from last year, and has Poon staring down a World Top 10 time this evening if she can crack 55 seconds.
SwimMAC's Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, who already stands 10th in the world with a 54.94 from Austin, raced her way into second with a 55.44 and is looking for the sprint freestyle sweep. Canada's Sandrine Mainville rounded out the top three swimmers with a 56.06.
T2's Amanda Kendall picked up a 56.10 for fourth overall, while Bulldog Megan Romano claimed fifth in 56.20 and is looking to break through her 0-fer in terms of podium finishes this weekend.
Hungary's Agnes Mutina (57.00), SoFlo's Alia Atkinson (57.25) and Canada's Hannah Riordan (57.37) also made their way into the championship finale field.
Men's 100 free
Jimmy Feigen raced his way to the top seed in the men's 100-meter freestyle preliminary rounds with a 50.07, and will be gunning for Anthony Ervin's meet record of 49.85 this evening after falling behind a pair of Brazilians in Bruno Fratus and Cesar Cielo in the 50 free.
Adam Brown checked in second with a time of 50.13, while Club Wolverine's Miguel Ortiz rounded out the top three qualifiers in 50.14. Mesa Aquatics' Cesar Cielo raced his way to fourth overall in 50.35, while SwimMAC's Ryan Lochte continued his comeback day with a fifth-place 50.54 as he focuses on anything but breaststroke since his knee is still in recovery mode.
Thiago Sickert placed sixth in 51.25, while Hungary's Krisztian Takacs took seventh in 51.26. Bolles' Mario Todorovic concluded the championship heat with an eighth-place time of 51.34. In NAG-hunting news, 14-year-old pro Michael Andrew posted a 34th-place 52.67 and, barring a scratch, will not be pursuing Noel Strauss' 1987 13-14 National Age Group record of 51.59 in the event.